PUTIN HONORS LUKASHENKA AS UNION STATE PARTNER. “

Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 221

Thank God for the end of electoral shocks in Byelorussia, now we can start working intensively to fulfill our earlier agreements,” stated Russian President Vladimir Putin, receiving Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the Kremlin. “We value”–Putin continued–“the Byelorussian president’s positive attitude toward Russia and toward the edification of the Russia-Belarus Union. This has for years been the essence of your policy.” Lukashenka replied that indeed his “entire political career has been invested into the Belarus-Russia relationship.”

Their meeting in the Kremlin, on the CIS summit’s eve, was marked by the publication in Moscow and Minsk of draft documents on the “Constitutional Principles of the Union State” of Russia and Belarus. A joint working group, chaired by Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, drafted the main documents. These envisage the election of a bicameral Union parliament, its enactment of a constitution, the constitution’s approval by referendum, and the transfer of supreme executive powers to the already existing High State Council, on which Putin and Lukashenka sit. One parallel proposal would create the posts of president and vice president of the union state for Putin and Lukashenka.

The Kremlin supported Lukashenka’s reelection as president recently while demonstratively cold shouldering the Belarusan opposition. Now, the Belarusan president is again being reduced as before to the role of economic supplicant in Moscow. During this visit, Lukashenka, his Prime Minister Henadz Navitsky and Foreign Affairs Minister Mikhail Khvostou raised the perennial issues of “equal treatment” for Belarusan companies in Russia–that is, unrestricted market access, and transport tariffs equal to those charged to Russian firms.

“I uphold the integration experience of the Soviet Union, which showed how people can live together in unity and friendship as a family. Unfortunately, the USSR can not be revived, but the best in the workings of its institutions can be reproduced,” Lukashenka asserted at his press conference in Moscow. In a separate interview he stated that the USSR’s dissolution in December 1991 “has cut into the flesh of peoples, of the Ukrainian-Belarusan-Russian unity.”

With such statements, Lukashenka continued playing on both the Soviet and the Russian nationalist chords, reaching out to those overlapping constituencies in Russia. The CIS, on the other hand, “has given our peoples nothing big, nothing great. We are just gathering from time to time in this discussion club” (Belapan, November 27; Interfax, Russian Television, November 28-30, December 1).

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